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Children were ‘piled up and shot’ during ethnic cleansing in Sudan’s Darfur

May 9, 2024 at 3:54 pm

Two boys peer over a UNHCR aid tent as newly arrived refugees from Darfur in Sudan, gather at a relocation camp near the border on April 19, 2024 in Adre, Chad. [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

Recent testimony of witnesses who escaped ethnic violence in Sudan’s Darfur region last summer recount disturbing scenes of children being “piled up and shot” by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as they tried to flee from El Geneina, the regional capital.

This violence was part of an ethnic cleansing campaign targeting Sudan’s non-Arab Masalit tribe, with thousands of civilians losing their lives.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has compiled 221 witness statements, providing further evidence of the RSF’s year-long campaign of ethnic cleansing. The rights group is urging the United Nations and African Union to impose an immediate arms embargo on Sudan and deploy a robust police force mission to Darfur to safeguard civilians from further atrocities.

Moreover, a HRW report released yesterday calls for sanctions against those responsible for widespread war crimes, including West Darfur RSF Commander Abdel Rahman Joma’a Barakallah, along with the RSF Commander Mohamed “Hemedti” Hamdan Dagalo and his brother Abdel Raheem.

Since fighting broke out between the RSF and Sudan’s military in April 2023, over eight million people have been displaced from their homes, contributing to a humanitarian crisis that the UN describes as one of the largest in decades, reported the Guardian.

Read: UN warns Sudan faces imminent threat of ‘world’s largest hunger crisis’

Attacks around Al-Fashir, the Sudanese army’s last holdout in Darfur and home to some 1.6 million residents, have led to dire warnings of a new wave of mass displacement and inter-communal conflict in Sudan’s year-old war.

Tirana Hassan, the executive director at HRW, said: “As the UN security council and governments wake up to the looming disaster in Al-Fashir, the large-scale atrocities committed in El Geneina should be seen as a reminder of the atrocities that could come in the absence of concerted action.”

One of the most devastating incidents of Sudan’s civil war occurred in June last year, when the RSF and its allies attacked a long convoy of civilians attempting to leave El Geneina, escorted by Masalit fighters.

Witnesses interviewed by HRW researchers reported that the RSF gathered and shot men, women and children who attempted to escape through streets or swim across the Kaja River that runs through the city. Many drowned in the river.

A 17-year-old recounted a harrowing incident on 15 June, describing the killing of 12 children and five adults. He stated:

“Two RSF forces grabbed the children from their parents and, as the parents started screaming, two other RSF forces shot the parents, killing them. Then they piled up the children and shot them.

“They threw their bodies into the river and their belongings after them,” he added.